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Docs Urge Missourians to Keep Meds Away from Toddlers, Teens

GRAPHIC: The National Institutes of Health finds 12th graders abusing prescription and over-the counter medications    Courtesy of: NIH

GRAPHIC: The National Institutes of Health finds 12th graders abusing prescription and over-the counter medications Courtesy of: NIH


June 17, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As prescriptions for adults' aches, pains and chronic illnesses increase, so do incidents of accidental poisonings of children. That's the disturbing finding of a new study reported in the July issue of "Pediatrics" magazine. It said that children under age 5 and teenagers are at the highest risk.

Children's Mercy Hospital toxicologist Dr. Jennifer Lowry said parents often tell her they turned their head for a minute or two and, before they knew it, a toddler had somehow swallowed their pills. Parents also cannot be too careful when it comes to teenagers, Lowry added, who may abuse their parents' meds in order to get high.

"Adolescents are seeking to take these medications," she warned. "It almost doesn't matter if you've locked it up - they'll find a key."

Parents are often surprised by how quickly a toddler can pull pills out of a purse or a pill dispenser, or just grab one that catches their attention, Lowry observed.

"You know, Grandpa drops a pill on the floor, he can't find it, so he just takes another one. The kid finds it, it looks like a Skittle or an M&M, and he eats it," she said.

While parents need to be extra vigilant, doctors need to be careful not to over-prescribe, she added.

"Physicians don't need to write a prescription for 30 pills for a tooth extraction. They can write for 10, or whatever. We don't have to write for the refills. There are ways for us to prevent access to these kids."

In more and more cases, these incidents are fatal. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the last decade, the number of children who died in car crashes decreased by more than 40 percent, while the number who died from accidental poisoning went up by 80 percent.

If you don't need the pills, just get them out of the house, Lowry advised.

The full article, "Adult Prescription Drug Use and Pediatric Medication Exposures and Poisonings," is available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org. More information is at www.cdc.gov/safechild.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO